Balancing screen time and family time

When to put the device down

balancing screen time and family time

Photo by Brian Dewey, CC 2.0.

Let’s face it, it’s a challenge to balance technology in our lives; but it’s essential. 

Parents and adults need to guide their young adolescents and children towards developing this balance. Arguably, we don’t have good technology habits ourselves, but the modeling and mentoring of developing a healthy relationship with technology is a critical role for parents.

Balancing screen time with family time

I don’t do much (or any) Thanksgiving television watching, but I read in the New York Times this week about a thought-provoking Verizon commercial airing on Thanksgiving. The commercial features typical families, young and old people commuting and “devicing” (yes, I made up that verb) their way towards a Thanksgiving gathering.

The point? Sometimes you need a smart phone, tablet, or even wearable technology; but at times like this event, you need to put it away.

 

Resources for parents

Here are some resources to share with parents and families of your students around striking a balance between screen time and family time.

Common Sense Media has excellent ( and free) material for parents seeking to guide their children. These include family guides of movies, television, apps and more.

The Parent Concerns and Parent blog “helps families understand and navigate the problems and possibilities of raising children in the digital age”.

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Common Sense Media may be providing the most robust collection of resources — there’s certainly enough material there — but I like this resource, as well: Janell Burley Hofmann writes a blog about finding a balance between tech and life – particularly aimed at parents. Her book iRules has helpful content for parents, as well.

Finally, I find this chapter in The Distraction Addiction by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang to be helpful:

Eight Steps to Contemplative Computing

  1. Be Human – First, appreciate that entanglement with technology is a part of life. Second, recognize that computers can affect how we see ourselves.
  2. Be Calm – it’s active rather than passive, being disciplined and self-aware
  3. Observe what helps you be mindful online and what doesn’t
  4. Make Conscious Choices – choose technology tools when it’s of greater value than the alternative
  5. Use devices in ways to extend your abilities – using them as tools for training and enriching our minds
  6. Seek Flow – find opportunities of when your abilities and the challenge are perfectly balanced
  7. Use technology in ways that engage you with the world
  8. Use technology in ways that are restorative – renew your capacity for attention

Let’s notice that adhering to these eight steps would result in some sort of Buddhist enlightenment. Perhaps the language is a bit lofty for use with adolescents. But the ideas and aspirations are worthwhile discussions and foundations for healthy habits. What’s important is that we recognize the need for parents to help their children develop this balance. 

 

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Rachel Mark

Rachel Mark joins the Tarrant Institute as a Professional Development Coordinator in the southern part of Vermont. Prior to working with TIIE, Rachel was a middle school literacy and social studies teacher at Tarrant partner school Manchester Elementary-Middle. As a teacher, Rachel loved exploring new content and new methods with inquisitive young adolescents. She thinks middle schools are the most dynamic learning centers in the state. Rachel is passionate about supporting teachers and helping them overcome obstacles; it’s her mission to break down the barriers that teachers face in implementing change. She is interested in student reflection and portfolio based assessment, inquiry and project-based learning When she's not reading, researching and supporting teachers, Rachel loves to play. She balances her life shuttling three busy kids around by getting sweaty and zen - yoga, exercise, and being outdoors are how she recharges her metaphorical batteries.

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